Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Broken Promise to You

There's been too much written about THE speech already!
by Charlie Leck

"New Gallup Poll Daily tracking finds Hillary Clinton with a 49% to 42% lead over Barack Obama in national Democratic voters' presidential nomination preference."
[Gallup Poll, 19 March 2008]

In the last couple of days, I dutifully cranked out a few thousand words about the national reaction to the Obama speech. As I promised, I was ready to publish it here, citing a few dozen links so you could examine the range of reaction. When I gave the blog its last, serious proofing, I set it aside and said: "Enough already!"

It's been ground into the ground and stomped under foot! And, worse, the speech came too late to save Obama from his awful fate. It's tough to be black in America. God forgive us for that, but it really is tough!

Even Obama had to get away from it. He headed to the Caribbean with his wife and children, to escape the madness.

The issue has turned too suddenly and completely to Obama's association with a Christian pastor. Now, did you ever think that would get you in trouble? Had the friendship been with Jerry Folwell,or even Ted Haggard, do you think it would have gotten him so deeply stained. But with a stomping, shouting, passionate preacher of the black church, like Jeremiah Wright? Well, my, that's a different story! It's damned tough to be black in America! And, don't you forget it!

Never mind how loudly, in the past, we've shouted our defense of that precious and guaranteed commodity called "freedom of speech" so carefully delineated in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It has limitations that an American presidential candidate ought to impose on his pastor!

"Throw him under the bus!"

"Never mind that he's one of your dearest, closest friends!"

"Condemn him for what he said!"

It's damned tough to be black in America! It's all about this awful climb, out, up and along a precarious, narrow ledge that runs high above certain disaster if one's foot slips just a little bit. It's a climb that we white folks simply don't know about. We've never had to make it.

Do you have the slightest friggin' idea about what it must be like to be black in America? Mind your P-s and Q-s and cross every "t" and dot every "i" or you're in big trouble. Become too kind and friendly and you'll be called "Uncle Tom." Act too much like the black man of the deep south and you'll probably be called "Jim Crow."

What must it be like to live without really knowing who you are and how you're supposed to act – probably one way among your own people and another in front of the precious "white community."

Do you have even the teeniest idea what the black church is all about and what it means to the black community? Do you know how different it is when compared to that brick and white columned, colonial-style community church in white, suburban America?

An obviously rational woman wrote an awfully sensible letter to the NY Times after reading an awkward opinion column by William Kristol that stated that "the last thing we need right is a heated national conversation about race…"

"We have never had a national conversation about race! We carefully walk on eggshells as if the race problem does not exist. Barack Obama has made an entire nation and possibly an entire world think and reconsider. The truth is we don't know one another, and what better time than now?"
[Judy Konos, Slidell, La., March 24, 2008]

Do you sense that I am angry this morning?

Damned right!

I see Barack Obama being driven into the ground because he is different. He's brilliant! He's gloriously honest! He is of high principle! He is a great communicator! He understands the art of compromise and diplomacy! He's a damned good man! Yet, he's not dancin' that Jim Crow jig.

Those who wanted to get him only had to wait patiently in the wings. All of Barack Obama's loyalty and devotion to his black community would bring him down!

And now, there he is. He's teetering on that dangerous ledge. He's being driven to condemn a friend by frightened white folks who only needed the slightest excuse.

Folks, it's damned tough to be black in America! I thought things were really changing. They're not!

So, it doesn't matter about that brilliant speech – the one I listened to in solitude, during a quiet, lovely, morning hour in my peaceful home! No matter that I was stirred to tears and my nerves tingled. It makes no difference now that I wanted to jump up and clap and shout, even there in the silence of a dark, private morning.

I thought the speech might be regarded as a turning point in American political history. It made me think of the cadences of Abraham Lincoln, the smoothness of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the brilliance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the passion of Martin Luther King, Jr..

Did I think it was a good speech? Shit!

It doesn't matter anymore. Barack Obama is not going to do the Jim Crow for all you white folks. So, now he's just a footnote in the story of American political treachery, beaten by white folks who don't understand what it is to be black in America.

"Far more people will see the endless loop of Senator Obama's frenzied former pastor than will ever read or hear the sober, thoughtful, constructive words of the senator himself."
[Bob Herbert, NY Times]

"The chickens have come home to roost!" [Jeremiah Wright, 2001]

"Jeremiah was a bullfrog,
was a good friend of mine.
I never understood a single word he said
but I helped him drink his whine.
And he always had some mighty fine wine.
Joy to the world...all the boys and girls
now , joy to the fishies in the deep blue sea
and joy to you and me."
[Creedence Clearwater Revival]

It's tough to listen to the prophets. This morning I feel like the cranky, weeping, angry prophet, Jeremiah. He saw a world in darkness. The people were moving deeper into that darkness and away from the light.

"Your trusted friends have seduced you
and have overcome you;
Now that your feet are stuck in the mud,
they desert you."
[Jeremiah 38:22b]

Never mind what all the pundits have said about the speech. What all of the commentators, about whom I was going to write, have said about the speech pales in importance when measured against the significance of the speech itself. If you haven't listened to it, shame on you! Here's a You Tube link to the speech. Or, if you'd rather read a hard-copy, here's the text of the speech.

And, unlike most of those self-righteous commentators who have condemned Pastor Jeremiah Wright, I've actually listened to or read the sermons for which he's been chastised. If you've got the gonads to listen to more than the 22 second sound-bite everyone plays, the sermons move around with a definite logic and end up making sense. Jesus, man! If you judged the prophet Jeremiah by one a little clip from this spot or another in his scriptural writing, you'd demand he be thrown under the bus, too. You, who shouldn't want to be judged, listen up! Don't be so quick to judge.

Stanley Fish, one of my favorite commentators, who is unfortunately not widely enough read because he doesn't spew pabulum, probably had the wisest thing to say about the demands that Obama condemn his former pastor.

"In politics, and in much of the rest of life, being held responsible for your own words comes with the territory. Once you've opened your big mouth, others have a perfect right to ask, "Do you really mean that?" or "What did you mean by that?" or "If you say that, would you also say…?" (a question that usually has you frantically disassociating yourself from Hitler). But why should you be held responsible for words spoken by someone else, even if that someone else is a person you work with or share a bed with? I frequently say things that make my wife cringe, but whatever blame attaches to my utterances certainly should not be extended to her, and it would be entirely inappropriate to ask her to denounce me or to fault her if she didn't.

"Yet this is the position we routinely place our public figures in. The demand that Barack Obama denounce and renounce his pastor, who delivered himself of sentiments a million miles from anything Obama has ever said, is only the latest and most publicized example. In previous little dust-ups Obama has had to distance himself from Louis Farrakhan (after Hillary Clinton demanded that he both denounce and renounce) and from his own middle name. Clinton, in her turn, has been called on the journalistic carpet because of remarks made by Robert Johnson, Geraldine Ferraro, a campaign manager and her husband. John McCain has had to repudiate a talk show host who introduced him and a minister who embraced him. And it's only March. What do we have to look forward to? Denunciations of grade-school friends who grew up to become neo-Nazis or sub-prime lenders?"

"…The odd thing is that the press that produces these distractions and the populace that consumes them really believe they are discussing issues and participating in genuine political dialogue. But in fact they have abandoned genuine political dialogue and have committed themselves to a conversation that differs only in subject matter from conversations about Eliot Spitzer's and David Paterson's sex lives. It's not politics; it's titillation clothed in political garb.

We should collectively denounce and renounce denouncing and renouncing."

If you don't think the Republican Party will begin dancing all over this association Barack Obama has with his former pastor, you'd just whistling past the grave yard. As Ron Klain says in his blog: "If there is one thing that the Republican Party of the past decade has mastered, it is electoral victory based on fear."

In her opinion column, Maureen Dowd says: "Hillary got a boost from the wackadoodle Jeremiah Wright. As a top pol noted, the Reverend turned Obama – in the minds of some working-class and crossover white voters – from 'a Harvard law graduate into a South Side Black Panther.'"

And, by the way, while I'm this angry, let me say congratulations to my wonderful Democratic Party! One more time it has been totally successful at carving itself up in plain sight of all of America. As Frank Rich wrote in his latest column:

"For Republicans, the prospect of marathon Democratic trench warfare is an Easter miracle. Saddled with the legacy of both Iraq and a cratering economy, the G.O.P. can only rejoice at its opponents' talent for self-destruction. The Republicans can also count on the help of a political press that, whatever its supposed tilt toward Mr. Obama, remains most benevolent toward John McCain."

If a lot of you are out there wondering if I'm nuts to think things have turned so sour for Obama, just read this blog from the sound thinking Strata-sphere .

"Clinton is well on her way to a Pyrrhic victory: Obama is losing to McCain too now, thanks to the infighting which is clearly turning off voters. But Hillary will get her place in history - as the first woman candidate for US President. Which is her second choice to being President herself. Trust me, she wants as much history out of this as she can squeeze - and too bad what it means to the party, the voters or the country. Blind ambition is just like that."

How can I not be angry?

Well, I'll tell you what! I and a lot of other pissed off Democrats may just end up sitting this one out!


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